WHAT IS AN IMPLANTED PORT?
An implanted port is a small medical device that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times, usually with less discomfort for the patient than a more typical "needle stick".
HOW IS THE PORT PLACED?
The procedure is typically an outpatient surgery and usually takes 1-2 hours. You will be given medications to help you relax and minimize pain. You will likely have the procedure done with interventional radiology so there is access to X-ray. For the port placement, two incisions are made: one in the chest wall and one by the collarbone. A tunnel is created for the port insertion. The tip of the catheter will end in the large vein near the heart. The room and instruments will be sterile. The radiology equipment will help the surgeon find the correct location for the port placement. You will be monitored by a physician and a nurse before, during and after the procedure.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN THE PROCEDURE IS COMPLETED?
You may have slight discomfort, soreness, and /or tenderness at the incision site and port area. You may feel a little drowsy from the medications that your doctor may administer. You should have skin glue applied to the incision site to keep it from opening. Do not peel it off. You will be able to shower. The port does not need a dressing over it when the port is not in use.
When it is time to use, or “access” the port, a nurse will connect to it with a special needle. You can request numbing ointment if the site is tender. The nurse will need to apply this ointment 10-15 minutes before accessing the port with the needle. The special needle is connected to tubing that can be used for blood draws or hooked to an I.V. pump for medications and chemo therapy. Once the port is accessed, a sterile dressing will be placed over top of the needle and port site to secure it. When your treatment is finished, the dressing and the needle will be removed.
If the port is not accessed on a regular basis, the port will need to be flushed monthly (every 30 days) with special medicine to prevent the port from clogging or clots forming. It is important to keep track of the dates your port was accessed and flushed.
WHAT DO I NEED TO REPORT TO MY DOCTOR OR NURSE?
- Any drainage from the incision site - note the color and the amount
- Any fevers or feelings of chills - this could indicate an infection
- Any new swelling and pain. The area will be sore for a few days following the insertion, but should improve. If pain and swelling continue, tell your nurse or doctor.
- Discuss communication cadence and what you should be reporting with your medical team.
WHAT KIND OF EFFECTS DOES A PORT HAVE ON MY EVERYDAY LIFE?
People will not be able to see your port if you are clothed. If your port area is exposed, people will be able to see a small bump about the size of a quarter, where the port is located under your skin.
You should be able to carry on with your daily activities for the most part. You are able to shower, bathe, swim, jog and /or exercise as long as the port is not accessed.
We do advise that you carry a device Personal Identification card with you when you travel in case of security requirements. Security systems may detect the small amount of metal.
And of course, always make sure to discuss further with your medical team.